Friday, July 31, 2009


I'm taking off early today to spend the afternoon and weekend with a good friend from out of town. She's never been to Portland before.

We're going to start off with lunch at Kennedy School, so she can see what McMenamin's is all about, and get a taste of good Portland beer. I also have plans for us to visit various parts of the city, eat some fresh Northwest salmon, try out a few different eateries and a coffee joint or two. See the Oregon coast, get some pampering at a day spa, drink some more beer, and of course do some cooking. (She's going to show me how to make souvlaki!)

There are just so many amazing things to do and see, and eat and drink around Portland – it's absolutely overwhelming! I wish I could take her everywhere, give her a taste and a sip of all Portland has to offer, all in one weekend. I want her to know what a great place this is and understand why I love it so much.

But, it's just one weekend, and it's impossible to do it all. It'll be a fun weekend for sure, and I know I shouldn't worry so much about making an impression. She'll like Portland – how could she not? Will she love it? I don't know, but I guess it doesn't really matter as long as she has a good time.

What does matter is that I realize how lucky I am to live here – near the ocean and the mountains, in a fantastic, somewhat funky little city, among creative, interesting people, where there's lots going on (way more than I can keep up with), and of course, great food.

I just love it here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Peanut Butter Honey Balls: No-Cook Kid Treats

When I was a kid, I had a funny little children’s cookbook my mom gave me. I remember only a few things I used to prepare, all of which happened to involve the use of bare hands. To make a cheese ball (think 70’s cocktail party) I kneaded grated cheddar with my warm little hands until it was soft and pliable. I then sprinkled the doughy cheese with chopped onions and shaped it into a ball. Sounds scrumptious, doesn’t it? It must have been torture for my poor parents to taste it and pretend to enjoy. Hopefully, at least, my hands were clean – well, we all lived anyway.

I also made pretzels. It was a basic yeast dough recipe with minimal rising time. I kneaded, then rolled (with hands, of course) the dough into snakes and shaped them into pretzel knots. I added a little egg wash, sprinkled with salt, and with Mom’s help, baked them in the oven. As I recall they weren’t particularly good, but I thoroughly enjoyed making them!

Finally, I remember making what my cookbook called, Joann’s No-Cook Candy. These hand-rolled bites of peanut butter, honey, and powdered milk were my favorite thing to make and eat. Sometimes I still crave the strange concoction and wish I had powdered milk on hand (I never do), so I could whip some up.

I no longer have the cookbook, and the few times I’ve made them since childhood, I’ve just added a bit of each of the ingredients until the right consistency and the right sweetness was achieved. Since I wanted to write about it however, and give you the correct proportions, I looked for the recipe online. I found nothing called Joann’s No-Cook Candy, but there were variations galore, of course, for Peanut Butter Honey Balls. The recipes have additions such as chopped nuts, sugar, graham crackers, wheat germ, raisins, and corn flakes.

Here is the very basic recipe. If you like, try rolling the balls in wheat germ, chopped nuts, mini chocolate chips, or whatever. I like to put the balls in the refrigerator to chill before eating, but there’s really no need to wait. You could even just eat the mixture straight out of the bowl with a spoon!

Peanut Butter Honey Balls  PRINTABLE RECIPE

1 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)
2 cups instant dry milk (do not add water)
up to 1 cup honey

1. In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter and dry milk. Add honey to taste and mix well. If the mixture seems too sticky, add a little more dry milk.

2. Roll into a log and cut into one-inch pieces, or use your hands to roll into one-inch balls. We used to wrap the individual pieces in squares of waxed paper (so they looked kind of like salt water taffy pieces), but this is optional. Store in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Apple Salad with Basil & Mint

It's hot in Portland this week – over 100 degrees! That means I'm going to have to share another salad recipe. We've been eating salad at our house all week: an Asian noodle salad with crisp vegetables, the lentil orzo salad I shared recently (with some tomatoes added), and a hearty bread salad (panzanella).

Here's another salad that's good for a hot day. The original recipe called for chicken. I simply omitted it and added some celery instead for balance. It turned out fine, and the salad is faster and easier to make too!

Apple Salad with Basil & Mint  PRINTABLE RECIPE

1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
4 scallions (white and light green parts only) - thinly sliced
2 Granny Smith apples - diced
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
2 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh mint
kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup roasted peanuts - roughly chopped

In a large bowl, combine the lime juice, vinegar, and brown sugar, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the scallions, apples, and celery, and toss. Add the basil and mint. Sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste and toss again. Top with peanuts and serve.

Ordinary Salmon Part II: Grilled Salmon with Soy-Mustard Sauce

This is a particularly ordinary recipe, but it's so very good. It's easy too, although I do have a tendency to overcook it, which is the saddest thing to do to a beautiful piece of salmon. The suggested cook time from the original recipe was definitely too long, at least for the cuts of salmon I get, so I've been working on getting it just right.

The other thing I tend to screw up is the timing of the meal. The salmon is supposed to rest for 10 minutes after it's removed from the grill, before serving. I almost always forget this. Sometimes it doesn't matter because I've already overcooked it at this point. Other times I end up having everything else ready to serve 10 minutes before the fish is done.

You can do this on an outdoor grill, or on the stovetop on a cast iron grill pan, as I often do.

Grilled Salmon with Soy-Mustard Sauce  PRINTABLE RECIPE

1-1/2 to 2 Lb salmon filet with skin
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp soy sauce (I use the reduced sodium kind)
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic

1. Whisk together the mustard, soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic.

2. Lay the salmon, skin side down, on a cutting board. Cut into four equal pieces. Drizzle half the marinade onto the salmon and let it sit for 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, preheat the grill (or grill pan) to about 350°.

4. Place the salmon, skin side down, on the preheated grill. Grill for about three minutes. Use a spatula to carefully turn the fish over and grill for up to another 3 minutes.

5. Transfer the fish to a plate, skin side down, and drizzle the remaining marinade over the top. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. (Remember, the fish will continue to cook during this time.)

6. Remove the skin and serve.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ordinary Salmon Part I: Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon

Salmon has become so popular it’s considered “common,” as in nothing special, boring, or ordinary. But I think most people, at least in the Northwest, would agree: Salmon is popular for good reason. Grilled, poached, cured, smoked, in eggs, in pasta, on a salad, on a plank, on a bagel. Lemon butter, dill sauce, ginger-soy, mustard sauce, no sauce. We just love it every which way.

Back when I was planning my wedding, salmon on a plank was a pretty new thing. I read about it in a magazine – a Native American method, that I’d never heard of before, for preparing this succulent fish. I requested it for our wedding dinner, and the caterers (hesitantly, I think) agreed to prepare it for us. They ended up baking it on a plank in the oven, rather than over a fire or on a grill, and though it was good, I’ve had better since, especially when we’ve made it ourselves at home.

My husband is the expert when it comes to making fish. He’s less likely to overcook it than I. So, I do the prep work and let him do the actual cooking. I like to serve it right on the plank for a sort of rustic presentation, and also to savor the smoky cedar smell. It really adds to the enjoyment.

I got this recipe off the packaging for some cedar planks a number of years ago. I still have the original cutout from the label. It’s got a faint aroma – kind of a garlicky campfire smell. The brand name has been cut off, or I’d give them credit for this recipe, which I love so much.

Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon PRINTABLE RECIPE

1 untreated cedar plank – large enough for your salmon filet

1 to 1-1/2 Lb salmon filet
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 3 fresh lemons
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3 cloves garlic – minced
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1. Submerge the plank in water and soak for at least one hour. After soaking, brush about 1-1/2 Tbsp olive oil onto the plank.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the grill to about 350°.

3. Brush the salmon filet with about 2 tsp olive oil and set it on the plank. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, parsley, and garlic.

5. Set the planked salmon on the preheated grill, and baste it with some of the marinade being careful not to contaminate the bowl of marinade.

6. Close the lid and cook until the fish is very nearly cooked through – time will vary depending on how hot your grill is and how thick the fish is, but the goal is to cook it slowly. Also remember, the fish will continue to cook after you remove it from the grill, so don’t overdo it. We usually end up with about 20 minutes of grill time.

7. Remove the planked salmon from the grill. Serve it on the plank or move it to a platter. Drizzle the remaining marinade over the fish and serve.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mexican Fiesta

We don’t do leftover night at our place very often. Most of the time leftovers are used for lunches or maybe an early dinner for the kids. Every now and then, however, we do a leftover night, and it’s almost always what we call, “Mexican fiesta."

Maybe it goes back to my philosophy about adding salsa to almost anything. We put salsa on the table with all the leftovers, buffet style, and there you go – Mexican fiesta. It works especially well if there’s leftover rice or tortillas or even lettuce. Add a little cheese, maybe some beans and you’ve got Mexican rice bowls, quesadillas, or taco salad.
My daughter likes a plain tortilla with a side of beans. My son likes tortilla chips with melted cheese. My husband, Dave, and I each make up our own plates with whatever sounds good. I’m likely to go for brown rice with black beans, grated cheese, and salsa, while Dave might make loaded nachos.
We like it so much we sometimes plan Mexican fiesta. We make more rice than we need for Tuesday’s fish dinner (and maybe an extra fish filet for fish tacos). We reserve some salad stuff from Wednesday night’s big salad. I make guacamole and salsa. Dave grates cheese. We buy black beans and tortilla chips, sour cream and jalapeño slices. I guess you could call it super-deluxe Mexican fiesta because it’s planned, therefore less random, and we’ve got everybody’s favorite fixings. Once again, we each make our own dish: maybe taco salad for me with lots of guacamole, quesadillas for Dave with onions and jalapeños. And the kids – well, they pretty much stick with the same boring stuff every time, but it makes them happy.
Maybe your family would rather have a celebrazione Italiano using leftover pasta, spaghetti sauce, or vegetables. Add a little fresh basil, a little Parmesan – you could make individual pasta concoctions, Italian-style salad, or pizza bread. Do you prefer Chinese? Make a vegetable stir-fry or fried rice (leftover rice is great for fried rice). Anyway, you get the idea.
For my family, Mexican fiesta is fantástico! There’s little effort involved, it’s a great way to use up leftovers, and we all get what we want. Now, if only I had a margarita – then it would be a true fiesta – rocks and salt please!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stuffed Peppers

I’ve never really been a fan of stuffed bell peppers, traditionally stuffed with rice, tomato sauce, onion, and sometimes ground beef. But I do like these Mexican-style stuffed peppers. My husband likes them too, and we enjoy them with a side of homemade chopped salsa (see recipe) and tortilla chips.

Poblanos are considered mild peppers, though there’s definitely some heat compared to a bell pepper. The smoke from broiling the peppers makes me cough, and I can feel a little burn from the pepper oil on my fingertips too. The rice and the cheese mellow the heat however, and the completed dish doesn’t actually taste very spicy to me.

Stuffed Chile Peppers  PRINTABLE RECIPE
(4 servings)

3/4 cup uncooked brown rice
4 poblano peppers (or to keep it extra mild, use small green bell peppers)
1-1/2 cups frozen corn – thawed
15 oz can kidney beans – rinsed & drained
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
4 oz goat cheese – crumbled

1. Prepare rice according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to the highest position and heat the broiler.

3. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds. Place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Broil until the skin is charred black, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

4. In a large bowl, combine the cooked rice, corn, beans, oil, salt, and pepper.

5. Use your fingers to peel the cooled peppers and discard the skins.

6. Place 2 pepper halves on each individual plate. Spoon rice mixture into and over the peppers and sprinkle with the cheese.

Pasta with Cucumbers

I found this recipe on the Food & Wine web site while looking for new pasta recipes. The idea of cucumbers and mint with pasta was really interesting to me, yet so very simple. I just had to try it.

Although I usually like more pungent flavors, I've really enjoyed this buttery combination. My only problem is that I can’t find Kirby cucumbers (like those in the picture). I’ve looked at all the different markets I frequent, including the farmer’s market, but no luck. Instead, I’ve used the small Asian cucumbers I find at Trader Joe’s.

I don’t think my husband is all that thrilled with this dish, mainly because it’s not very filling. You might want to try it as a side dish, rather than the main entrée.

Fettuccine with Cucumbers & Mint  PRINTABLE RECIPE
(serves 2)

1/2 Lb dry fettuccine
kosher salt
1 Lb cucumbers (Kirby cucumbers are recommended)
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add 3-1/2 Tbsp salt and then the pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

2. Meanwhile, peel the cucumbers and halve lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. (I’ve found that a grapefruit spoon works really well for this.) Then slice the cucumbers crosswise, 1/4" thick.

3. In a large skillet, combine butter, cucumber slices, and 1 tsp salt. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the cucumbers are tender, but still a little crisp – about 5 minutes.

4. Lower the heat to medium and add the pasta to the cucumbers. Toss to coat the pasta with butter. If needed, add a little pasta water – 1 Tbsp at a time – to moisten.

5. Remove from heat, add mint, and toss. Serve immediately.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Asparagus Apple Salad with Bleu Cheese Vinaigrette

Cheese is one of my favorite things to eat, and bleu cheese – well, in my opinion, it’s one of the very best things on earth. This recipe calls for only one ounce of it, so please, splurge on the good stuff. It’s really worth it.

I also love asparagus. It’s my favorite vegetable. So, when I saw this recipe I just knew it had to be good. The original recipe calls for Gala apples, which are sweet, crisp, and slightly tart – a good choice, I'm sure, but I went for lots of tart with Granny Smith.

For some reason, I think this salad would be great with a steak, but it’s Meatless Monday, and anyway, it’s plenty good all on its own.

Asparagus Apple Salad with Bleu Cheese Vinaigrette  PRINTABLE RECIPE

1/4 cup (1 oz) crumbled bleu cheese
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp water
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

2 cups of 2-inch asparagus pieces
4 cups torn butter lettuce
2 cups thinly sliced apples – granny smith, gala, or your choice

1. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and set aside.

2. Cook asparagus in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and rinse under cold running water, and drain again.

3. Combine the asparagus, lettuce, and apple slices in a large salad bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette and toss gently to coat.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Lentil Orzo Salad with Feta & Mint

There’s a deli near my workplace that, unfortunately, is not too good. The prices are high, the service is poor, and the food just isn’t that great. But, because it’s so convenient, I end up going there for lunch every now and then. Plus, they sometimes have this lentil salad that’s actually really good. So good, I hunted down the recipe.

It’s a tasty and filling summer salad. The mint and the dill work together really well with the olives and feta and garlic vinaigrette. It’s a bit oniony (is that a word?), so if you think it might be too much for you, go ahead and reduce the amount of onion (and garlic too, if you like).

Lentil Orzo Salad with Feta & Mint  PRINTABLE RECIPE

1-1/4 cups dry orzo pasta
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup dried brown lentils - rinsed & drained
5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic - minced
1/2 cup kalamata olives - pitted & chopped
1-1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1 small red onion - diced
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper - to taste

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add orzo and cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Mix in 1 Tbsp olive oil. Cover and refrigerate until cool.

2. Place lentils in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Cover, and simmer over low heat until lentils are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together 5 Tbsp olive oil, vinegar, and garlic to make the vinaigrette.

4. Remove pasta from refrigerator and add lentils, vinaigrette, olives, feta, onion, mint, and dill. Stir until well mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Meatless Monday

It’s easy for me to commit to go meatless on Mondays since I seldom eat meat anyway. I don’t know why, but I’ve just never felt like I had to have a piece of meat on my plate every time I sit down to eat. I have a memory of an aunt though, who couldn’t fathom a meal without meat. I remember, ages ago, planning a dinner – I don’t recall what we were making, but apparently we hadn’t included a meat course – and she asked, “But what are we going to have for the meat?” As I remember, my mom and I scrambled to find a chicken breast or something to serve with the meal.

Another time, we took the same aunt to a Vietnamese place for dinner. The restaurant had the best spring rolls that just happened to be vegetarian, but without even giving them a try, she insisted that she and my uncle preferred to have meat in their spring rolls, and we ended up ordering the meaty version (they were guests after all).

So, although I can’t really say that I get it, I know for some of you, committing to even one meatless day a week, could be tough. As Michael Pollan suggests, however, if “we push meat a little bit to the side and move vegetables to the center of our diet” we’re going to be healthier and reduce our carbon footprint too. So, maybe it’s worth a try, and meatless Mondays is a great way to get started. Go to the Meatless Monday web site to learn more, and maybe even join the movement.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Love Every Bite

When I eat, I like every bite to be perfect. I try to combine the exact right amount of each component of a dish to make each and every bite just right. The best example is probably nachos. In fact, I’ve been told that watching me eat nachos is quite amusing.

First, you must know, I love nachos. I love them with gooey nacho cheese or sharp cheddar. I love them with Pace Picante or pico de gallo. I love them with onions or cilantro or black beans or all of the above. When I eat them, I assemble each chip as I go. Each one must have some cheese, a jalapeño slice, a dollop of sour cream, some salsa, a smattering of beans. Of course it varies depending on the ingredients available, but each little triangle is carefully constructed.

I eat salad the same way. A piece of lettuce, tomato, a slice of cucumber, a little cheese, an olive, dressing – whatever the ingredients are – there must be a little bit of each, so every bite can be thoroughly enjoyed.

Call me high maintenance, anal retentive, whatever you like. But I love food and I want to enjoy every mouthful and every calorie I consume. If it isn’t delicious, I don’t really want to eat it at all. All I want is to Love Every Bite!

Friday, July 10, 2009


The meatballs were the hit of the spaghetti dinner – there were many compliments. As you know, I’m not much of a meat eater, but I too went back for seconds. Unfortunately, I can’t take a whole lot of credit. I just went online, came across a recipe for spaghetti and meatballs that sounded good, and went for it. For the original, complete recipe go to Simply Recipes. The sauce was good, but I didn’t love it, so only the meatballs recipe is here.


1 Lb ground beef
1/2 Lb Italian style ground pork sausage
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped crimini mushrooms
2 eggs
3/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan-Romano cheese blend
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
Red wine (optional)

1. Mix by hand in a large bowl: beef, sausage, basil, parsley, mushrooms, eggs, bread crumbs, cheese, salt, and pepper until well mixed. Use a melon baller or spoon to form 1-inch round meatballs. Use your hands to roll and compress into tight balls.

2. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add olive oil. Sear and brown meatballs on all sides, about 2-3 minutes. Cook in a single layer. (You'll probably need to do this in two or more batches.) Do not over-cook. The meatballs will have a chance to cook through as they’re simmering in the sauce (next step). As the meatballs are finishing, you can add a little red wine to de-glaze the pan and add that to your tomato sauce.

3. Add meatballs to simmering tomato/spaghetti sauce and gently stir. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Homemade Pesto

I’m hesitant to share this recipe because it’s one of my specialties – one of the things I make that always really impresses people. Maybe they don’t realize how easy it is to make, or that they could go online and find all kinds of great pesto recipes in seconds. Anyway, I guess I’ll go ahead and share.

Pesto is easily found at the grocery store, but the homemade stuff is pretty hard to beat. And if you don’t make it yourself, you miss out on the wonderful aromas of fresh basil and garlic.

There are all kinds of pesto variations with ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes, olives, cilantro, parsley, walnuts, lemon zest, and so on. Mine is a traditional basil pesto. Try it, then feel free to experiment with whatever sounds good to you. You can use a food processor as I usually do; crush and mix the ingredients the old-fashioned way, with a mortar and pestle; or simply chop everything up and toss it all together with your pasta.

I often make this with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) instead of pine nuts because of my son’s nut allergy. If you were at our spaghetti dinner in Minnesota, that pesto was made with pepitas.


6 oz bunch of fresh basil - remove leaves, and discard stems
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup raw pine nuts (pignolias) or pumpkin seeds (pepitas) – toast in a skillet until fragrant and just beginning to brown
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp shredded Romano cheese

12 oz dry pasta – prepare according to package directions

Combine the pesto ingredients in a food processor and blend into a smooth paste. Toss with the pasta and sprinkle with a little extra grated cheese and maybe some coarsely chopped, toasted nuts or seeds.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cooking for a Crowd (and my Lemon Garlic Salad Dressing)

Cooking a full meal for over 20 people is not an easy thing for me, especially in someone else’s kitchen. It was for my son’s 5th birthday, which we celebrated while visiting family in Minnesota. I decided a spaghetti dinner was they way to go. It’s a crowd-pleaser, the kids love it, and it’s not too complicated. Add salad, garlic bread, a couple simple appetizers – no problem!

Well, I don’t have much experience cooking for more than six or eight, so the first thing I had to do was put my multiplication skills to work, so my recipes would make enough for the large group. Then I realized I probably shouldn’t make sauce from a jar as I usually do. What would everyone think of a food blogger who didn’t make her sauce from scratch!? I went online and found a recipe for spaghetti and meatballs that sounded good. The reviews were all positive, so I decided to go for it – fingers crossed.

Next, I put together my master list of all the meal components: spaghetti, tomato sauce, meatballs, basil pesto, salad, garlic bread, plus cannellini bean dip, cheeses, and olives for pre-meal snacking. I kept thinking of more things: Spider-Man birthday cake, ice cream, drinks, ice. The grocery list was huge!

I made the salad dressing and basil pesto a day ahead. Then the day of the dinner, while everyone else went out for a day of fun on Lake Minnetonka, I stayed behind and cooked, hunting around the unfamiliar kitchen for the required cooking implements, improvising at times. I found two large pots for sauce and another not-quite-big-enough pot to boil spaghetti that evening. I made 64 meatballs and even though there was a nice large skillet, it took four or five rounds to brown them all. I made the cannellini bean dip that afternoon too.

After cleaning the kitchen, I sat down and made a list of what needed to be done starting at 4:30 to have appetizers out at 5:00 and dinner ready to serve at 6:00. The family then returned from the lake and we bathed and dressed the children. I showered and dressed myself, and before I knew it, it was time to start checking items off the to-do list. My sister and husband helped out as I heated the sauce and meatballs. The checklist worked pretty well, but I still found myself scrambling to wash the lettuce and throw the salad together at the last minute, and even worse, I forgot to start the water to boil the pasta! Thank goodness someone volunteered to take care of the pasta, and someone else poured me a glass of wine. I never would have made it without them.

In the end, everything came together, and dinner was served, buffet style, shortly after 6:00. Overall, it was a good meal, though there was way too much food. The sauce was fine, but I think sauce out of the jar would have been just as good. The meatballs received lots of compliments, as did the basil pesto, and everybody loved my husband’s out-of-this-world, fantastic garlic bread. I got a few requests for recipes, and I’ll publish them here over the next few days. One of those requests was for the cannellini bean dip, which I posted previously – see Quick Dips.

Here’s the salad dressing recipe that Mary Ann asked about (no onion). It’s a Caesar style dressing, but a little lighter – no egg yolks.

Lemon Garlic Salad Dressing with Parmesan  PRINTABLE RECIPE

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves – chopped
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
2 tsp finely chopped anchovies or anchovy paste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour dressing over torn or chopped Romaine lettuce and toss with additional Parmesan cheese and croutons. This recipe makes enough for two large salads (about 2 large heads of Romaine lettuce per salad).